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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Malnutrition in Mumbai: 16 child deaths in 1 slum

Apeksha Vora, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, December 13, 2010
First Published: 00:12 IST(13/12/2010) | Last Updated: 00:51 IST(13/12/2010)

While the high-profile Adarsh land and housing scam has brought Mumbai's near-lawless urban development into focus, a silent malnutrition crisis in the city points also to a grotesque imbalance in people's access to resources and a collapse of social services.

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At least 16 children under six years have died from malnutrition and related illnesses from April this year in just one locality of the city - Shivaji Nagar in Govandi, northeast Mumbai, said Dnyaneshwar Tarwade, assistant director at Apnalaya, a non-profit group that works in this slum, located just a half-hour drive from the glitzy Bandra-Kurla Complex.

After battling a high fever and cold for several weeks, for instance, Sahil Salim, a 15-month-old boy from Shivaji Nagar, died on Friday. His death came a week after another child from the same slum, two-and-a-half-year-old Khatija Afzal, had died after a similar illness.

Salim weighed just seven kg, a sign that he was "severely malnourished" according to the WHO's classification, which India uses.

Khatija was nine kg, just about allowing her to make it to the next bracket of "moderately malnourished."

"While the government at least tries to tackle malnutrition in tribal belts, it often forgets that urban malnutrition claims as many, if not more, lives and needs to be addressed urgently," said Neeraj Hatekar, economics professor, University of Mumbai, whose research on malnutrition in the city's slums  is one of the few such studies.

According to the state government's data, 3.5% of Greater Mumbai's slum children under six die every year because of poor nutrition and increased risk of infections - a figure largely accepted by academics and social workers.

The city has about 7.3 lakh slum children below the age of four, according to the government National Family Health Survey, so at least 25,550 -- 3.5% of 7.3 lakh -- children die of malnutrition and related illnesses every year. (There are deaths among children between 4 and 6, but those under 4 constitute the bulk.)

"A chief minister-appointed committee headed by the chief secretary will look into urban malnutrition, particularly issues involving the food and civil supplies department, which runs the public distribution system," said Varsha Gaikawad, the state's women and child development minister.

(With inputs from Shailesh Gaikwad)

Mumbai's hunger map | Mumbai's population


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